I’m helping out with a local charity called the Boston Debate League, which provides urban students with an incredible education in policy debate. In their most recent newsletter they presented the following findings:
Research Links College Readiness and High School Graduation to Urban Debate
A recent study published in the Journal of Negro Education demonstrates that participation in urban debate increases the likelihood of high school graduation and performance on the ACT Reading and English subject-matter tests; a major indicator of college readiness. Dr. Briana Merzuk of Virginia Commonwealth University and a research team at the University of Michigan examined 10 years of Chicago Debate League data and reported that among African American male students, debaters were 70 percent more likely to graduate from high school, three times less likely to drop out, 50 percent more likely to reach the ACT college-readiness benchmark for English, and 70 percent more likely to reach the ACT benchmark for Reading than non-debaters, even after accounting for 8th grade achievement.
This new study is a game changer. It is scientifically valid, peer reviewed research that demonstrates what we have known all along–that participation in debate prevents a significant number of students from dropping out of high school and more importantly gives them the skills they need to both graduate high school and succeed in college. As the Boston Debate League expands to new schools in BPS and goes deep in those schools, we can move from a program that significantly affects a small number of students to one that changes graduation rates and test scores on a schoolwide and even districtwide scale.
The one stat I don’t fully understand is how students are 70% more likely to graduate AND 3 times less likely to drop out. Assuming that all students who don’t graduate end up dropping out, shouldn’t those numbers match? Regardless, I think this just goes to show how much debate can help students out.